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Turkey

Thompson's Turkey Revisited

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Thompson's Turkey Revisited

Lew P. | May 16, 2002 11:16 AM

May I add a few more words on Morton Thompson's Turkey? I missed the exchange in early May, but I gather the subject comes back from time to time. In our family we refer to a bird prepared in this way as a "Joe" after Thompson's book JOE THE WOUNDED TENNIS PLAYER. My mother-in-law read the book during World War II when she worked for Armed Services editions, which selected that book for distribution to the troops overseas. She wrote her husband and promised a good celebration when he got back from Europe. By the time my wife and I were married, at a two-family Thanksgiving dinner in 1970, her parents had a couple of decades of experience cooking Joes, and we've now added over 30 years to the tradition. Quite a few friends have taken the recipe from us and make it regularly. This has gotten easier since food processors entered our lives, but we do it, in any case, because we love the results ? the wonderful aromas, the moist flesh, a dressing superior to any other. I make the last comment because every now and then I try a different one, recommended by a food magazine, for a post-Thanksgiving turkey. We always say, "OK, but not as good as a Joe." When I make a small bird, in fact, I stuff it with fruit and herbs and serve a fragrant couscous on the side.

I understand that the Joe recipe may not be for everyone. Why should it be? But I would point out that we do not use a cup of flour as called for in the recipe printed in an earlier post. Following Thompson's directions, we make a paste with enough sifted flour to make it stiff, as Thompson directs. We skip none of the bastings and turn the bird twice (a bit tricky, but we use oven mitts to pick it up). We ALWAYS eat the skin. Also, we always get a delicious pan gravy by using port, vermouth, or some other rich red wine to deglaze the roasting pan and mixing in the cider-based basting fluid. Because of the preferences of various family members, we omit the pork (and sometimes the veal) in the dressing and use ground turkey instead. It's not as good that way, but oh well. And we no longer render the turkey fat and add it to the dressing ? more likely, we use canola oil instead. There's some loss there, too, but traditions are supposed to change.

I really was happy to see the discussion of the "funny" recipe that we are so attached to. Incidentally, Thompson's text is adorned with advice from Appolonius of Agrifolio and other ancient sages reminding us that "your own labor" is "the priceless ingredient in whatever food you serve."

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